Apr 17, 2020

Read Time 4 min

Churn Monster: Black Swan


As we are all working from home, social distancing, and seeing once-crowded streets now nearly empty, it doesn’t take much to see that the world has drastically changed in just a few weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are a lot of unknowns and one of them related to our professional lives is how will this affect Customer Success.

churn monster - black swanToday we are unveiling a new churn monster to talk about this all too real churn risk – the Black Swan.

A Black Swan churn monster is a customer who is affected by an unforeseen and very unpredictable circumstance with potentially severe consequences and widespread impact.

Let’s take a look at a scenario detailing a sequence of events around a pandemic and how you might be able to mitigate this unpredictable churn risk.

The Scenario

The pandemic has caused many industries to dramatically slow down or even come to a halt. One of your biggest clients is in the travel sector, which has been hit among the hardest due to international and even domestic flight restrictions. You are worried the current circumstances might cause you to lose this once very healthy and active customer. What do you do?


Plan of Action

One of the first things you do is flag this concern to your management team so your organization can help rally around the customer. You then proactively reach out to your point-of-contact (POC) to try and get a better understanding of how they are being impacted. At this time, they share some insights but really so much is still unknown.

You know you will want to keep a close eye on their product usage, so you set up alerts to ping you of any major changes in their usage behavior. Within the next week you notice that logins have significantly dropped. After speaking with your POC again you find out that they unfortunately had to furlough a number of team members, which accounted for the decline in usage. You relay your sympathies to the customer and let them know that your organization is committed to helping them through this tough time.

Given the furlough and that the customer’s team is still trying to operate, but on a skeleton crew, you introduce some new automation that they can utilize to make the now much smaller team more effective. This offers some relief to the remaining team members.

You and your team also band together and develop a resource kit to share with the customer that breaks down guidance for some quick wins directly related to the situation at hand. You also include a report readout that they can easily share with their key stakeholders.

In one of your calls with the customer, they tell you their team is having difficulties with communication while everyone is working from home. To help alleviate this pain point for the customer, you get permission to temporarily grant them free access to a team collaboration feature within your product that is typically an add-on, to help them regain better communication while remote.

You know the customer is coming up on their quarterly payment that is due. You set up a call with the customer to discuss their current financial situation. They tell you that they are facing a cash shortage and are being told to consolidate and even eliminate expenses across the board.

Since you and your company are eager to retain the customer, you offer to allow them to defer payments until the travel restrictions are lifted. You also include the concession that once they are able to get back to operating business as usual you will allow them to reconfigure their payments to offer more flexibility.

They graciously accept your offer, which you are relieved about because you thought they would be forced to cancel their subscription after many years of being a customer. You are glad your team allowed you to find a workaround to retain the account.

Time goes on and a vaccine is developed which brings the pandemic to an end. The travel sector has picked back up again, and the customer has been able to start making their deferred payments.

When their renewal comes up, they have made up all their outstanding payments and are in a much better place financially. They decide to not only renew their subscription but upgrade the whole team (who they were able to hire back full-time) to the collaboration feature you let them utilize while they were working remotely.

Even though going through all of this was tough on everyone the silver lining was you know the customer relationship was strengthened by your team’s dedication to partner together for the good of the customer.

Great job on fighting churn against the Black Swan!

Follow the links below to check out the other churn monsters that were previously part of our series.


Customer Success Around the Web

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